I am beginning with this image by the artist Lynda Bengelis. This picture appeared in the front of the issue of the glossy art magazine Artforum in 1974 as an advertisement for the Bengelis’s show at the Paula Cooper Gallery. As she saw it, American art in the seventies was still a "heroic, macho, sexist game.” In terms of its reception at the time, some artists and critics claimed the work "made amockery" of "the movement for women's liberation,” and called it an effort of "self-promotion. Whilst others admired Benglis, viewing the advert as both a powerful artistic statement and a denunciation of the male-dominated art scene. So that in someway set the scene for today’s lecture, but…before I go onto explore the attempts of postmodern artists to introduce new voices in to the canon of art by focusing on the marginalised, I want you to consider some images with a view to discussing who is represented and how they are represented.
I have intentionally omitted to provide you with any information about who the artist is, rather I want you to consider the works and the relevance of for example the race, gender, sexuality of the artist and who is represented and how.
Again consider the work and the relevance of for example the race, gender, sexuality of the artist and who is represented and how.
So today’s lecture focuses on: postmodern artists exploring how meaning arises, and what other kinds of meanings and entities are represented,and the attempts of postmodern artists to introduce new voices in to the canon of art by focusing on the marginalised
Historically we talk about the ‘canon of art’ a term used to refer to the artists which have played a significant role in the history of art. This tended to focus on white, western, middle class, heterosexual male artists. This evidently neglects to consider a whole host of voices.In other words the canon of art was: “Western in its orientation, capitalist in its determining economic tendency, bourgeois in its class character, white in its racial complexion and masculine in its dominant gender.”In 1971 Linda Nochlin asked in her seminal essay:‘Why have there been no great women artists?’, in this text she explores the reasons for the severe disproportion of female to male artists throughout the course of art history. In her discussion Nochlin indicates that the answer to this question of why there have been no great women artists, lies in institutional boundaries, as opposed to individual limitations, that hindered women for centuries from having access to the same opportunities as men, keeping them from being deemed to be “great.”
Nochlin’s text is demonstrative of the fact that both feminism and postmodernism have emerged as two of the most important political and cultural currents since the 1960s. And that the two are highly interdependent upon each other.Specifically it is important to consider the element of postmodern sensibility that involves a shift of emphasis from epistemology to ontology, a shift from knowledge to practice, from mind to body. A SHIFT FORM THE FOCUS OF WHAT WE KNOW, TO QUESTIONING HOW WE KNOW IT. And we will see that this shift allows for greater consideration of female artists since in Modernist thought epistemology or knowledge or mind was aligned with the male gender and positioned as a binary opposite to females who were aligned with ontology or practice or body, which were excluded from modernist rhetoric and considered inferior.This shift also saw that issues of identity and representation became crucial to postmodernism particularly in light of feminist thought.SO postmodernism, with its emphasis on specific identities that challenged formalist or modernist beliefs in transcendental or universal art, reflects broader social critiques of hierarchies based on ethnicity, gender, sexuality and class.And recent cultural theory demonstrates the ways in which identity, sexuality, nationality, or ethnicity should be seen as partial, provisional and constantly in process.
Now as we’ve seen the 1970s were a key flashpoint in the consolidation of postmodern thought. So it was really since the 1960s then that a strikingly visible interest in gender presentation and sexuality intersected with an explosion in the production of art that took as its subject the body as a physical entity in the construction of identity and the gendered body. In fact it is clear that this widespread, pervasive fascination with the body and identity is a symptom of postmodernity.Perhaps more explicitly, selfhood seems to lie at the heart of much of these art practices that engage with the body. Part of this conversation was developed in Betty Friedan’s, The Feminine Mystique published in1963 which criticized the idea that women could only find fulfillment through childrearing and homemaking, this seminal text could be said to have really been a catalyst in jump starting feminism.
This critique about how women could seemingly only find fulfillment through childrearing and homemaking is explored in a short film I want to show you:Semiotics of the Kitchen adopts the form of a parodic cooking demonstration
Shift from universal historiesto local and explicitly contingent histories. History and identity politics: who can write or make art? for whom? from what standpoint?Postmodern historians and philosophers question the representation of history and cultural identities: history as "what 'really' happened" (external to representation or mediation) vs. history as a "narrative of what happened" a "mediated representation" with cultural/ideological interests.Art works are likewise caught up in the problem of representation and mediation--of what, for whom, from what ideological point of view? Distrust of metanarratives (Lyotard); suspicion of ideological agendas in "Western Art" paradigms; deconstruction of traditional art media and genres. Rise of feminism and identity politics as challenge to artworld roles and functions of art.
So the main objectives of this lecture is to recognise as Craig Owen states: Representation….Understand the social content and political statements of feminist art along with innovative and expressive use of materials.Understand the use of art to express gender and cultural heritage issues, as well as the experimental forms and innovative use of materials.Body, gender, and identityThe wider significance of the postmodern condition lies in the awareness ofa range of other dissonant, even dissident histories and voices - women, the colonized, minority groups, the bearers of policed sexualities.The history of feminism reveals some crucial struggles over the control of women’s bodies.
Postmodernism:1. a critique of historical narratives2. a critique of the myth of originality3. a critique of the grounds of differencegeneral art-world view is that Postmodernism has seen the fall of the linear, singular, white and masculine principles of Modernism and in its place a multiple, diverse rainbow coloured, fractually complex proliferation of practices and discourses exists. This claim is that there has been a paradigm shift is what I want to explore.
Postmodernism signalled the disintegration of meta narratives of class, gender, race etcThe ‘other’ of art making their presence knownOther cultures stereotyped (race, class etc)The crucial shift from an aesthetic to a societal model of the Postmodern came with the French philosopher Lyotard’s book‘The Postmodern Condition’ first published in 1979 which replaced the play of styles with a thorough cultural relativism. According to Lyotard the ‘grand or meta narratives’ that had informed Western societies since the enlightenment could no longer sustain credibility.
Many systems of meaning are based on binary structures (masculine/ feminine; black/white; natural/artificial), two contrary conceptual categories that also entail or presuppose each other. One aspect of semiotic interpretation involves exposing the culturally arbitrary nature of this binary opposition and describing the deeper consequences of this structure throughout a culture. The mutual dependence of binary oppositions formed one of the starting points of Jacques Derrida's insights about deconstruction. So if a system of mutually dependent signs are culturally constructed, then they can also be de-constructed by exposing the supressed logic of them, which is frequently presented ideologically as natural, normal, or what goes without saying. The creation of binary opposition structures the way we view others. One of the oppositional terms is always privileged, controlling and dominating the other In the case of colonialism, the Oriental and the Westerner were distinguished as different from each other (i.e. the emotional, decadent Orient vs. the principled, progressive West). The critique of binary oppositions is an important part of post-feminism, post-colonialism, post-anarchism, and critical race theory, which argue that the perceived binary dichotomy between man/woman, civilized/savage, and caucasian/non-caucasian have perpetuated and legitimized Western power structures favoring "civilized" white men.The ‘other’Most commonly, another person or group of people who are defined as different or even sub-human to consolidate a group's identity. For example, the Nazi's internal cohesion depended in part on how they defined themselves against (strove to maintain distinctions from) their image of the Jews. In this sense, "The other" is the devalued half of a binary opposition when it is applied to groups of people. This realization has informed the work of a number of artists who have engaged with ‘identity politics’ this has constituted an arena less self-referential forms of art.Patriarchal tradition defines sexuality in terms of opposites: dominant/submissive; active/passive – characterising mean as aggressive, independent and analytical, and women as emotional, nurturing and intuitive. These attitudes to gender and sexuality, enshrined in the essentially patriarchal societies of the West are reflected in representations of the female body.Viability of the "semiotic square" of oppositions and differentiations in analyzing art in a social context, as we saw last week with Krauss’s expanded field, reveals that a network of relations is more complex than simple oppositional model.
The dissolution of binary structures were an essential precept of postmodern philosophy: Western thought has hitherto divided the world into a series of binary oppositions that privilege one side over the other. The political implications of the lesson were clear: Oppression can be traced back to the way we think, and hope of liberation rests on escaping this binary thinking. The postmodern project of overcoming binary thought, however, is more difficult than it may appear. First of all, one cannot simply flip the terms and privilege what was once diminished – that would merely replicate the binary in inverse. The issue is not which term is privileged but the false belief that existence can be divided into two distinct, competing parts. Thus the task of the postmodern activist became the blurring and problematizing of distinctions in order to destroy dualist thinking. It was all done in the name of political liberation. At least that was the intended goal.
JuliaKristevaTheorist Julia Kristeva argued that postmodernism reflects the beginning of a revolution that brings to an end the dominance of trancendental consciousness in the intellectual history of the West. She identified the emergence of a new paradigm, the paradigm of pomo as distinguished from mo. Throughout traditional discussions within the field of philosophy there has been an expression of values of hierarchies that assigned higher value to mind over body. At the same time it identifies man with mind and woman with body.Feminist theorist and postmodernists seek to deconstruct such binary oppositions.Discusses the gaze and the way the gaze subjugates the person looked at and by whomSeen in the work of Freud, Lacan and later Mulvey
The politicisation of women’s art practices in the 1970s and the development of theories about the way meaning is produced, semiology in particular, led feminists to a more complex appraisal of what came to be called ‘representation’ or ‘signification’ . That is how the representations of women are produced, the way they are understood, and the conditions in which they are situated. Clearly in this image the female body is in a position of inferiority which is also highly sexualized…Fetishistic objectification is the sexualised act of regarding a person as an object for erotic purposes. Allen Jones' sculptures ''Hat Stand'' and ''Table Sculpture'', made in 1969, which show semi-naked women in the roles of furniture, are clear examples of the depiction of the fantasy of sexual objectification.
Central to the early 1970s representation debate is this statement by John Berger: “Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relations between women and herself. The surveyor of women I herself is male; the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object of vision; a sight…The ‘ideal’ spectator is always assumed to be male and the images of woman is design to flatter him.”John Berger, Ways of Seeing, Penguin, London (1972)Due to the cultural assumptions of male-gendered spectatorship any representation of the female form was (and still is) connotatively loaded.The most fully developed model for the establishment of the dominant male patriarchal system was developed by the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and extended by his French follower Jacques Lacan. This model places the male in the subject position and the female as the ‘other’ the object of the male’s desiring gaze. In contrast representations of the male body seem. Like language itself, universalising and ideologically transparent.Psychoanalytic accounts of the formation of gender identity posited masculinity as normative, and femininity as a kind of enigma, the other.
Whilst the long standing male/active/subject versus female/passive/object dichotomy is still one of our most fundamental templates for understanding gender. Yet the dichotomy is restrictive when considering the fluidity with which spectators, from a variety of positions, slip in and out of identifications and desires.In relation to the reconceptualisation of gender that emerged form the activism and scholarship of the 1960s and 70s theorists and artists have raised questions about the viewer’s identificatory experience in relation to what is seen. One example being that women can and do take pleasure from images of other women, and are actually encouraged to do so in the fashion system.There are new paths in women's representation that challenged the notion of "the gaze" as being purely one sided: men looking at women.
This is one of a series of enlarged double-page spreads from tabloid newspapers, the titles of which are taken from the headlines.Lucas became frustrated with the minimalist-influenced sculpture she had been making at Goldsmith's College at the end of the 1980s, which involved costly materials and an aesthetic that she did not feel was hers. Inspired by reading books on feminism, pornography and sexuality she turned to a cheaper and more immediate source of imagery that she felt was more relevant to her: the tabloid press. Here she began to explore the representation of and attitudes towards the female body in popular culture. She realised she had conflicting feelings about this, since she identified herself as a viewer with the traditionally male desiring eye and as a woman being objectified and dehumanised through her cultural representation. She began to use the imagery of popular culture's attitudes to women as the material and subject of her work. Her art functions as a mirror which reflects back unconscious and pervasive attitudes by highlighting their manifestation, usually through literal representation.'I use sexist attitudes because they are there to be used. I get strength from them …With only minor adjustments, a provocative image can become confrontational - converted from an offer of sexual service into a castration image … I'm dipping into the culture, pointing a finger: directing attention to what's there.’ Lucas's selection of pages from tabloids exposes and ridicules the voice of male misogyny by allowing it to speak without mediation. She has picked particularly extreme and ridiculous examples of working-class male attitudes towards women, albeit entirely in character with the overall tone of the newspapers. Each main text about sex in these double-spreads, which document fantasised male and female insatiability, is supported by a shorter article covering dishonest and criminal acts, all perpetrated by men, which further undermines the masculine voice. Seven Up (taken from The Sport) features a row of seven topless women who are suggestively offered for the reader's consumption by the subtitle 'You can have it every day'. All the other texts on the page offer 'sex contacts' in the form of telephone numbers, 'raw explicit action' and 'all new girls'.
The Guerrilla Girls are a group of anonymous women activists fighting for gender and racial equality within the New York art world.In 1985, The Museum of Modern Art in New York opened an exhibition titled An International Survey of Painting and Sculpture. It was supposed to be an up-to-the minute summary of the most significant contemporary art in the world. Out of 169 artists, only 13 were women. All the artists were white, either from Europe or the US. That was bad enough, but the curator, KynastonMcShine, said any artist who wasn't in the show should rethink “his” career. And that really annoyed a lot of artists because obviously the guy was completely prejudiced.
Interrogations into issues of gender, race, and sexuality motivated uncompromising explorations.This example is a direct response to art and art politics which marginalised women practitioners and manipulated the body of woman in representation
One the fundamental concepts that has been contested in the postmodern politics of the body is the Marxist idea of ‘totality’ that had been reflected in modernism’s investment in the ‘ideal object’ and its desire for a coherent subject. During the modernist period artists and philosophers in the West were becoming aware of the alienation that had been caused by the growth of industrialisation. Modern artists sought to satisfy aspirations to unity to end their alientation. One might, from this point of view, maintain that modernity was marked by the will towards totalisation embodied in the notion of the struggle to overcome the disintigrative effects, social and political, inscribed in modern experience. However since the 1960s when a multiplicity of marginalised gender, social, and ethnic identities were making themselves felt, it became clear that the simplistic mode of thought upon which the West’s unitary subject was based could no longer be sustained.
The representation of the body has always been shaped by crisis of political and cultural identity. Concerns about gender and sexuality are reflected in representations of the body and the body politic, specifically the marginaliseation of the female body in Western art and culture. The historical mapping of the body into high and low areas has been determined by the politics of gender, the female body has been designated as being dominated. It is low organic matter counterposed with the high male head.As I have already outlined, there has long been a politics concerning the way in which women are represented. A number of female artists’ practice was informed by feminist thinking. Artists recognised the potency of using their own bodies to create art, obviously the use of ones own female body is inevitable
Cindy Sherman demonstrates the power of transformation to impact notions of identity in her photographic series Untitled Film Stills. They have been much discussed as virtual emblems of postmodernism’s concern with theories of representation, specifically representations of women.Sherman’s images are not an invitation to look behind or through the representation for the ‘real’ Sherman, but rather they are an exploitation of this impulse to drive a wedge between the unified and authentic inner self and the postmodern sense of an irrevocably fragmented and culturally constituted subjectivity.
Sherman shows that to represent the self is to reproduce an already given type.
The psychoanalyst Joan Riviere first argued in 1929 when she introduced the concept of femininity as masquerade exploring the masks of femininity and the scripts women adopt in her essay Womanliness as Masquerade.This is echoed in Simone de Beauvoir;s dictum…“One is not born a woman, but, rather becomes one.”
Later writers such as Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida rejected the Cartesian mind-body dualism that resonated in Decartes dictum “I think therefore I am” that expressed the view that our identity is to be characterised through thought, and instead they focused attention on bodily experiences.
Furthermore a subsequent continuum appeared in the 1960s with the phenomena of ‘sexual liberation’ that manifested itself in cultural production and resonates in contemporary art.It is not by coincidence that the concept concept of the self as something to construct, reconstruct and deconstuct came under scrutiny around the late 1960s. It was a time when the borders between self and others were under interrogation. The women’s liberation front, the civil rights movement and the campaign for gay and lesbian rights were in various stages of formation and all introduced burning questions about social, ethnic and sexual idenitity.
After World War Two, a broad movement against racist institutions and stereotypes developed in many Western societies. Civil rights organisations in the United States protested against negative stereotypes of African-Americans and against institutional racism and discrimination. The 1960s and 1970s introduced popular images of black emancipation - 'black pride', 'black is beautiful', 'black power', 'black solidarity'. Derogatory images of black people were gradually pushed back and, along with a stronger presence of black people in media, more positive and 'normal' images appeared. Black people were no longer simply represented as servants, entertainers or sportsmen, but also as figures of beauty, elegance, soul and authority.
Sonia Boyce in From Tarzan to Rambo, 1987 investigated the twin themes of racial identity and racism.
As an African-American who is able to pass as ‘white’ Adrian Piper makes work which reveals the social and institutional prejudices that surface when she divulges her racially mixed identity. The purpose of the work is to pointedly express the racial stereotyping that exists.Adrian PiperFrom 1972-1976, Adrian Piper created an alter-ego, the Mythic Being, who became the basis of a pioneering series of performances and photo-based works. Piper—a light-skinned woman of mixed racial heritage—transformed herself into the Mythic Being by donning an Afro wig, sunglasses and mustache and adopting behavior conventionally identified as masculine. "The Mythic Being' was a project which went on for several years. In it, Adrian Piper took on the identity of an African-American man roaming the streets and parks of New York. Piper's aim was to liberate herself from certain aspects of her own subjectivity and explore moments of confrontation, alienation and difference.In the process, she transformed the conceptual art practices common in the period, infusing them with strong personal and political content.
TheoristErrington argues that the construction of the primitive in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (and the kinds of objects chosen to exemplify it) must be understood as a product of discourses of progress—from the nineteenth-century European narrative of technological progress, to the twentieth-century narrative of modernism, to the late- twentieth-century narrative of the triumph of the free market.
The arguments found within postmodernism suggests that there is more to the world than the western straight white male norm.
Grace JonesFor the performances Haring hand painted Jones’ body in his characteristically stylised hieroglyphic white designs, inspired by the body paintings of the African Masai. Jones also adorned her body with an elaborate sculptural assemblage.Jones's performances embodied a negotiation of two of the most crucial issues during that period: art in relation to popular culture and modernist conceptions of ‘Primitivism’ reinterpreted by modernism's black female ‘Other’. According to Haring, (who had studied semiotics) Jones was a signifier for everything he admired in the global crossroads of postmodern New York. Through the painting, adornment, and importantly through her performance, Jones played with iconic signs of the ‘primitive’, and transformed these signifiers and her body into a site of power.
“ As Europeans increasingly came to think of themselves during the nineteenth centuries as essentially and characteristically secular, rational, civilised, and technologically advanced, they almost necessarily generated an imagined Other that was savage, ignorant, and uncivilised”According to Said, the West has created a dichotomy, between the reality of the East and the romantic notion of the "Orient. The Middle East and Asia are viewed with prejudice and racism. They are backward and unaware of their own history and culture. To fill this void, the West has created a culture, history, and future promise for them. On this framework rests not only the study of the Orient, but also the political imperialism of Europe in the East.In 1978 Edward Said’s published his book Orientalism.Here he identifies that Orientalism in one form or another dates from at least the eighteenth century, and then resurfaced prominently in early modern art with the efforts of Gauguin, Picasso, and Expressionists everywhere who endeavoured to enact forms of exoticism and primitivism as routes to a more authentic Western consciousness – a search that provided only further stereotypes of the white mind’s desire to escape itself in fantasies of the oriental, the native, and the natural.The notion of universality is a European invention. As asserted by Edward Said, Europe had only considered its own culture and its peculiar expressions as universal in contrast with the so-called indigenous cultures, considered as regional phenomena. Since the 19th century, art and culture were comprehended through a euro-centric point of view, while the claim for universality made this eurocentricity unconscious for most people.In the 1980s museums were criticised for their displays have a Eurocentric bias i.e. they did not acknowledge the work, symbolism meaning outside of western culture. Such criticism rode on the coat tails Said book, which marked the beginnings of postcolonial studies. Postcolonialism is a set of theories in philosophy, film, political sciences and literature that deal with the cultural legacy of colonial rule. Postcolonialism deals with cultural identity in colonised societies: the dilemmas of developing a national identity after colonial rule; the ways in which writers articulate and celebrate that identity (often reclaiming it from and maintaining strong connections with the coloniser); the ways in which the knowledge of the colonised (subordinated) people has been generated and used to serve the coloniser's interests; and the ways in which the coloniser's literature has justified colonialism via images of the colonised as a perpetually inferior people, society and culture.Said is best known for describing and critiquing "Orientalism", which he perceived as a constellation of false assumptions underlying Western attitudes toward the East. In Orientalism (1978), Said described the "subtle and persistent Eurocentric prejudice against Arabo-Islamic peoples and their culture.” He argued that a long tradition of false and romanticized images of Asia and the Middle East in Western culture had served as an implicit justification for Europe and America's colonial and imperial ambitions. Orientalism has had a significant impact on the fields of literary theory, cultural studies and human geography. Said contended that Europe had dominated Asia politically so completely for so long that even the most outwardly objective Western texts on the East were permeated with a bias that even most Western scholars could not recognise. His contention was not only that the West has conquered the East politically but also that Western scholars have appropriated the exploration and interpretation of the Orient’s languages, history and culture for themselves. They have written Asia’s past and constructed its modern identities from a perspective that takes Europe as the norm, from which the "exotic", "inscrutable" Orient deviates.Said concludes that Western writings about the Orient depict it as an irrational, weak, feminised "Other", contrasted with the rational, strong, masculine West, a contrast he suggests derives from the need to create "difference" between West and East that can be attributed to immutable "essences" in the Oriental make-up.
In short, Primitivism in 20th Century Art, coupled so-called tribal artifacts with modern works in order to show a correlation between the two. The status of tribal artifacts has been forced to shift and deviate from their original classification as remnants of an ancient past with anthropological definitions, to those with more modern, aesthetic definitions.This instigated a shift in considerations of the notion of fine arts aspeculiarly Western activity and asserted that it is no longer the only acceptable standard. In today’s postmodern art world, artistic centers are not limited to certain Western capitals but are instead dispersed in a multiplicity of centers around the world.
Looking at the historical precedents for the relation of western art to the rest of the world.Tracing the roots of cultural appropriationPicasso’s appropriation of the African mask is one example of hybrid forms of expression that beg, borrow and steal from elsewhere. In doing so they raise the question about the significance of power relations in doing so.
Magicians of the Earth (Magiciens de la terre) was an exhibition at the Pompidiou Centre in Paris in 1989 curated by Jean-Hubert Martin and was intended to counteract ethnocentric practices within the contemporary art world and confront problems presented by several exhibitions that perpetuated a colonialist mentality, the most recent being the show having been, “Primitivism” in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Many critics condemned the “Primitivism” show, as it fell into a similar Modernist trap of providing only a pure aesthetization of the work of native cultures. “Primitivism” stated that it was only interested in displaying tribal works that influenced Modern artists and studying how this phenomenon functioned within the Modernist discourse. Many of the tribal works were presented vis-a-vis Modernist works when little or no historical evidence of these works drawing inspiration from specific “Primitive” works or, in some cases, even a “Primitive” idiom.
The notion of universality is a European invention. As asserted by Edward Said, Europe had only considered its own culture and its peculiar expressions as universal in contrast with the so-called indigenous cultures, considered as regional phenomena. Since the 19th century, art and culture were comprehended through a euro-centric point of view, while the claim for universality made this eurocentricity unconscious for most people.
More than being a case of the ‘simple repression of one group of people by another, power is implicit in the way we come to ‘know’ the world. For this reason postmodernism, bound up with an ‘incredulity’ towards Grand Narratives and ‘truths’ is incredibly hard to define. To be marginalised is to be held apart from the ‘centres’ of knowledge production and representation. Multiculturalism, Feminism, And Queer theory are, for those reasons, very important aspects of the de-centralising process defined as postmodernism. Moreover, they might be seen to be only prominent examples in a much broader field of marginalisation
Postmodern thought brought with it a rejection of the absolute. It was a movement towards a more relative and fluid understanding of reality, one that changed across cultures, tradition and race. The postmodern mind rejected the certainty of an unchanging, foundational truth, and like a stone cast upon still water, shattered reality’s reflection in art.
Week 4 New Voices: Postmodernism’s focus on the marginalised
Postmodernism in Art:an introduction firstname.lastname@example.org
From “Official History” to Underrepresented NarrativesPostmodern artists exploringhow meaning arises, and whatother kinds of meanings andentities are represented. Sarah Lucas Au Naturel (1994)
Why have there been no great women artists?“Western in its orientation,capitalist in its determiningeconomic tendency,bourgeois in its classcharacter, white in its racialcomplexion and masculinein its dominant gender.”(Harrison and Wood, Art in Theory)
Feminism and postmodernism have emerged as two of the most important political and cultural currents since the 1960s.Barbara KrugerUntitled (your body is a battleground) (1989)
A dichotomy exists between High andMass culture which one can seeprivileges the masculine over the feminine High Culture Mass Culture (Art) (Pop culture) Heterosexual Homosexual Masculine Feminine Production Consumption Work Leisure Intellect Emotion Activity Passivity Writing Reading
PostmodernismThe postmodern projectof overcoming binarythought, however, ismore difficult than it mayappear. First of all, onecannot simply flip theterms and privilege whatwas once diminished –that would merelyreplicate the binary ininverse. Yinka Shonibare Odile and Odette IV (2005-06)
Psychoanalysis• Discusses the gaze and the way the gaze subjugates the person looked at and by whom• Seen in the work of Freud, Lacan and later Mulvey
Allen Jones Chair (1968)The politicisation of women’s art practices in the 1970s and thedevelopment of theories about the way meaning isproduced, semiology in particular, led feminists to a more complexappraisal of what came to be called ‘representation’ or‘signification’ . That is how the representations of women areproduced, the way they are understood, and the conditions inwhich they are situated.
“Men act and women appear. Menlook at women. Women watchthemselves being looked at. Thisdetermines not only most relationsbetween men and women but alsothe relations between women andherself. The surveyor of women Iherself is male; the surveyed female.Thus she turns herself into an objectof vision; a sight…The ‘ideal’spectator is always assumed to bemale and the images of woman isdesign to flatter him.”John Berger, Ways of Seeing,Penguin, London (1972)
Considering the fluidity with which spectators, from a variety ofpositions, slip in and out of identifications and desires
Tabloid FeminismLucas realised she hadconflicting feelingsabout this, since sheidentified herself as aviewer with thetraditionally maledesiring eye and as awoman beingobjectified anddehumanised throughher culturalrepresentation. Sarah Lucas Seven Up (1991)
NormalizationA common misunderstandingof the analysis of gender andpopular culture is thatnormalization is limited tofemale bodies.In fact, as these imagesshow, normalization ispresent in male bodies. Likethe imagery of females,males are presented in"perfected" forms and aretold that there are ways toimprove their bodies.
Guerrilla Girls a group of female artists founded inNYC in the 1980s. This group appear in gorillamasks and attempt to expose the inequalities withinthe art world.
Portrait of the Artist with her Mother, Selma Butter (So Help MeHannah series), 1978-81.
CINDY SHERMAN,Cindy ShermanUntitled Film Stills, 1978
Cindy Sherman Untitled Film Still #54Sherman shows that to represent the self is to reproduce analready given type.
“One is not born awoman, but, ratherbecomes one.” Simone de Beauvoir The Second Sex (1973)Sarah LucasSelf-Portrait with Fried Eggs(1996)
“I thinktherefore I am.” Rene DescartesBarbara KrugerUntitled (I shoptherefore I am)1987
After World War Two, a broad movement against racistinstitutions and stereotypes developed in many Westernsocieties. Civil rights organisations in the United Statesprotested against negative stereotypes of African-Americansand against institutional racism and discrimination
Sonia Boyce, From Tarzan to Rambo:English Born `Native Considers herRelationship to the Constructed/SelfImage and her Roots in Reconstruction, 1987
The purpose of the workis to pointedly expressthe racial stereotypingthat exists. Adrian Piper Mythic Being (1972-76)
Jean Michel BasquiatNative Carrying Some Guns, Bibles, Amoriteson Surfari 1982
The arguments found withinpostmodernism suggests thatthere is more to the worldthan the western straightwhite male norm.Robert Mapplethorpe “Man inpolyester suit” (1980)
“ As Europeans increasinglycame to think of themselvesduring the nineteenthcenturies as essentially andcharacteristically secular,rational, civilised, andtechnologically advanced,they almost necessarilygenerated an imagined Otherthat was savage, ignorant,and uncivilised” Errington 1998 p16
Picasso, Sitting Nude, 1908Mask from Baule in Ivory Coast
Anonymous artist, South Africa + Picasso, Woman with Joined Hands
Yinka Shonibare Gallantry and Criminal Conversation (2002)
More than being a case of the ‘simple repression of one group of people by another, power is implicit in the way we come to ‘know’ the world. For this reason postmodernism, bound up with an ‘incredulity’ towards Grand Narratives and ‘truths’ is incredibly hard to define. To be marginalised is to be held apart from the ‘centres’ of knowledge production and representation. Multiculturalism, Feminism, And Queer theory are, for those reasons, very important aspects of the de-centralising process defined as postmodernism.Jenny Holzer Moreover, they might be seen to be onlyAbuse of Power comes prominent examples in a much broaderas no surprise field of marginalisation.